In the UK, the death toll has surpassed 45,000 making Britain the country with the fifth-highest death rate globally. But scientists have warned a lull in the outbreak during summer is due to the disease being milder in the warmer months.
Researchers around the world have found a 1°C increase in temperature is linked to a 15 percent decline in deaths caused by the pandemic.
Professor Tim Spector, who runs the COVID Symptom Tracker app, claimed
summer was a “window of opportunity” to get rid of the virus in Europe.
He argued when the weather is warmer people are less susceptible to severe diseases and are more in danger in colder weather.
The expert warned this is a particular worry for the UK as the infection rate is still up in the thousands and summer is ending soon.
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Speaking on BBC Radio 4 this week, Professor Spector said: “In Europe, where we had seven hospitals recording data and temperatures and time, we saw that for every degree of centigrade increase we saw a reduction in mortality of about 15 percent.
“So generally, as the weather got warmer the severity of the disease reduced and mortality reduced over time.
“And the same was not true in the Chinese data that we’ve got which was running from December to February when the temperature wasn’t heating up.”
Professor Spector, a King’s College London epidemiologist, found people appear to be having shorter, less severe illness due to the warmer weather.
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Working with scientists around the world, a study looked at data from, nearly 7,000 patients in hospitals from Croatia, Spain, Italy, Finland, Poland, Germany, the UK and China.
The research found death rates fell in Europe as the continent warmed up but did not change in China where most cases happened in winter.
It also found the odds of dying in Barcelona fell by 4.1 percent per day between March 2 and May 19.
Intensive care demands also dropped by 2.2 percent in Europe between February and May.
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While patients needing ventilators fell by 2.1 percent per day.
The researchers noted hot and humid countries in East Asia had not seen death tolls as devastating as seen in cooler Europe.
Indonesia has around 86,521 cases with 4,143 deaths, which is a rate of 4.8 percent compared to a death rate of 15.4 percent in the UK.
When asked whether hot weather in Europe could drive the virus out, Professor Spector said: “I think there is a window of opportunity to do that because of the temperature.
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“But our symptom app is showing, as is the government data as well, that we’ve actually bottomed out about two weeks ago and the rates of decline stopped at the beginning of July.
“[Infection] rates are even slightly higher – non-significantly higher at the moment – we’re still having 2,000 cases roughly a day still occurring and this is rather worrying if these trends continue.
“It’s likely that in a month’s time, the weather’s going to start getting colder again and these cases are going to last longer and be more severe so this is a worry, particularly when we’re talking about people going back into employment where there’s air conditioning and things like this, which might have a big effect on how this virus behaves.”
Professor Spector’s paper has been published on the website medRxiv and has yet to be peer-reviewed by independent scientists.
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Dr Simon Clarke, an associate professor of cellular microbiology at the University of Reading, said: “This study shows an association between temperature and severity of symptoms, but it does not demonstrate why that happens.
“It may be because low temperatures slow down the normal mucus clearing of infecting viruses in our nasal passages.
“If there is indeed a wave of infections in the UK this winter, it could coincide with the annual flu season, which itself puts significant stress on the NHS.
“We could experience a double-whammy of serious respiratory diseases, which could cause the NHS to grind to a halt.”
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